Journals May Ask Physicians to Divulge Hedge-Fund Ties

The New England Journal of Medicine and 13 other prestigious medical publications may force physician researchers to disclose their financial connections to hedge funds and other investors in the wake of insider-trading probes.

The New England Journal of Medicine and 13 other medical research publications may force physician researchers to disclose their financial connections to hedge funds and other investors in the wake of insider-trading probes, according to a Bloomberg report.

Editors for the New England Journal, the Journal of the American Medical Association and 12 other periodicals will discuss during their annual meeting in June whether researchers who submit studies must reveal investment-industry ties, Karen Buckley, a New England Journal spokeswoman, told Bloomberg. According to Buckley, the existing rules on payments by drugmakers and device companies don’t cover financial arrangements with investors.

In early November, Dr. Yves M. Benhamou, a French physician, was charged with illegally tipping off a portfolio manager at FrontPoint Partners LLC, a Greenwich, Conn.-based hedge fund, concerning the results of a clinical trial by Human Genome Sciences Inc. As a result of the information, the fund manager sold about six million shares of the Rockville, Md., drug developer.

“We have no idea what the doctors’ connections are, how much they know about new research, how much they’re talking to their friends about what the most promising drugs are,” said Jerome Kassirer, a professor at Tufts University Medical School in Boston, told Bloomberg. Kassirer was editor-in-chief of the New England Journal from 1991 to 1999.

The International Committee of Medical Journal Editors meets in June and the question of whether to expand disclosure rules for researchers whose work is published in the journals is “on the agenda,” Buckley told Bloomberg. Along with the New England Journal, the panel includes editors from The Lancet of London and the Journal of the American Medical Association in Chicago.

Marcia Angell, a former New England Journal editor-in-chief who now teaches ethics at Harvard Medical School in Boston, told Bloomberg the journals should expand disclosures to cover the investment industry, she said.

“Conflicts of interest have real consequences and whenever there is a financial benefit to distorting the results of your work in some way, then that should either be prohibited or at the very least disclosed more broadly,” she was quoted as saying.

Read the complete Bloomberg report here.